On exchanging gifts

I commented recently that exchanging gifts is generally acceptable these days, depending on your relationship with the giver.  In other words, grandma might be horrified at the notion of you exchanging her gift, but your best friend might not bat an eyelid.  Or vice versa.

Including a sales docket or exchange voucher with your gift is an implicit signal that you’re okay with your gift being exchanged by the recipient.  So – better consider that it might actually happen!   I found out the hard way that sometimes it’s simply assumed that you won’t exchange. 

A couple of years ago, some friends bought me a wine rack for my birthday.  It was a thoughtful gift – they knew I was signing up for a wine tasting class – but they hadn’t reckoned on one thing: I had limited counterspace in my kitchen and couldn’t really spare room for a wine rack on it. 

They excitedly watched me open the parcel and pointed out that there was an exchange voucher, so I could swap the present for something else at the same shop, if I wanted.  When I mentioned I might just do that (because of the countertop space issue), I saw their eyes widen with surprise. 

I think we were all taken aback: me, because I thought they’d already inferred that exchanging the rack would be fine by them.  Them, because it hadn’t crossed their mind that I actually would exchange it.  They thought they’d found the perfect gift (and they so nearly had) and including the voucher was clearly just a token gesture. 

It taught me to tread more carefully around the matter of exchanging gifts, lest hurt feelings result.  And, when giving presents, to realise that no matter how well I think I’ve chosen, the recipient might actually want to use that exchange voucher.


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